Downtown Columbus felt like a big family reunion Saturday with music, games, food and entertainment as people gathered to celebrate the opening of the new Commons.
Residents watched the restart of the “Chaos I” sculpture; children romped in the playground; local school musicians performed, and people explored the new, two-story glass-and-steel structure.
Snow cones and lemon shake-ups were hot items as the temperature and humidity soared and the sun shined brightly on the community celebration.
Will Miller, whose late parents, J. Irwin and Xenia Miller, donated funding for the original structure, spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony where people crowded around the main entrance.
He praised the “up-to-date and even more useful” design and public-private partnership, which allowed The Commons to be rebuilt.
Miller said the building was the vibrant heart of downtown and provided the city with a “common ground, common space and common future.”
As Columbus resident Patty Unrue worked at a volunteer sign-up table, she marveled at the rebirth of The Commons.
“Oh my goodness, it’s just beautiful,” she said. “It’s a place where the community can come together.”
Originally, opened in the mid-1970s, The Commons included an enclosed shopping center, called Courthouse Center, connected to a community space along Washington Street.
Today’s structure offers a similar design but with changes and improvements.
The playground is in the same location near the corner of Washington and Third streets, and “Chaos I” still stands in the main lobby.
The new Nugent-Custer Performance Hall on the second floor provides a spacious area for musical performances and community gatherings, and tables and chairs are scattered throughout the upstairs and downstairs for residents to relax and enjoy the facility some have called the community’s living room.
Planning is under way for new restaurants, which will occupy two downstairs areas near Fourth and Washington streets, and food-court restaurants will be added to the back wall of the playground.
Erin Cauble watched her 1-year-old son, Phinn, repeatedly climb over a small, carpet-covered bridge in the playground, and older children nimbly maneuvered from platform to platform to reach the top of the 45-foot-high Luckey Climber.
“He loves it,” said Cauble, who also took Phinn outside to the closed Washington Street to watch a juggler and stilt walker, play games and make big bubbles outside of kidscommons.
Cauble also enjoyed seeing two “human statues,” silver-covered characters who stood motionless in poses, making passers-by take a second look to see if they were real.
Stan and Theresa Hill strolled through downtown and enjoyed seeing the new building where their daughter attended the prom in May.
“It looks pretty awesome,” Stan Hill said.
The day began with a “People Parade” as residents, waving small U.S. flags, walked from the Farmer’s Market at Sixth and Washington streets to The Commons, led by trombonists playing “76 Trombones.”
Out-of-towner Stephanie Piercy, who was house-sitting for an aunt in Columbus, came downtown to enjoy the festivities and let her three young children enjoy the kids’ activities.
“There is such beautiful architecture here,” Piercy said as she at sat on a bench in front of The Commons.
Other activities filled the downtown area, including the opening of Columbus Farmer’s Market which will be open Saturday mornings through September.
“We can’t be any more pleased with the showing,” said Becky Church, chairwoman of the market committee of Columbus in Bloom, event coordinator.
Organizers nearly doubled the space of the market over last year for vendors to sell produce and handmade items.
Also downtown, the American Cancer Society held its annual Relay for Life where participants set up campers and tents and had teams walk inside Mill Race Park from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. today. They also held a 7 p.m. ceremony to honor cancer survivors.
Despite the heat, hundreds took part in the downtown events and counted themselves as part of the historic day.
Nick Rush, of Columbus in Bloom and Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, put it simply:
“It’s a happening place.”
2:30 p.m. Nugent-Custer Performance Hall in The Commons — Family-friendly Toxic Audio, which performs jazzy a cappella music. Tickets available at the door, $15 for adults and $5 for ages 12 and under.
7:30 p.m. at The Commons — Concert by California Transit Authority with Danny Seraphine, co-founder and longtime drummer of the band Chicago. Tickets $13 in advance at the arts council office inside The Commons, online at artsincolumbus.org or at the door for $15.